ABU DHABI // The UAE will play host to Australia, one of 32 teams now playing in the World Cup finals, in an Asian Cup warm-up match at the turn of the year. The fixture, to be played on January 5, was formalised between the two football associations on Sunday night at an event designed to promote Australia's bid for the 2022 World Cup finals.
"I can confirm the game and the date, but the venue is yet to be confirmed," said Jaseb Majeed, the media manager of the UAE Football Association. The Asian Cup will be in Doha January 7-29. The UAE are in a group with North Korea, Iran and Iraq; Australia will play South Korea, Bahrain and India. By then, Australia will know if they have been successful in their bid to stage the 2022 tournament.
They recently withdrew a bid for 2018 to concentrate on 2022. With the 2018 event set to be staged in Europe, Australia will by vying with Japan, Qatar, Russia, South Korea and the United States for the right to host the showpiece event four years later. The decision will be announced in December. Australia is a "renowned sporting nation and have hosted several world events including the 2000 Olympics, which the then-IOC president Juan Antonio Samaranch deemed as the best ever", said Doug Trappett, the Australian ambassador to the UAE and Qatar.
"The World Cup in Australia could be the best place in the world to have an away game because of the diversity, as it is home for millions of migrants, mostly from Asia, who have made it their home. "Football has gone from strength to strength since Australia made its inaugural appearance in the World Cup in 1974. It is also the most popular sport, with over a million playing football at various age groups and levels."
He said that was reflected in the country's qualification to the 2006 World Cup, where they narrowly missed reaching the last 16, their qualification for South Africa and their elevation into the top 20 in the world in the Fifa rankings. "We have a number of internationals playing abroad in the Turkish, Swiss and Premier leagues," he said. "These are evidence of the sport's development in the country and what it could turn out to be more than a decade from now."
The presentation on Sunday at the Park Rotana hotel was staged before the Australian's World Cup loss to Germany and included a DVD presentation which highlighted Australia's experience of staging world events, their venues, their sports infrastructure and the facilities they can offer. Mohanned Hourani, the president of Aussies Abroad, believes Australia have a great chance of winning the bid. "But we all have to play our part," he said.
"Every member of our organisation will use today's advance technology to communicate via various ways like Facebook to promote Australia's bid because December 7 is not far away. Australia has the pedigree and experience, and more importantly they are sport-loving people. "So whether it be now or in 12 years, Australia will be ready to stage any world event."